Help and Helper
by Sarah Ivill
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I remember the fear I felt as the force of the wave overwhelmed me and I went under the salty water of the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t get my bearings or my footing, but suddenly a strong arm pulled me back into light and fresh air. That strong arm was my mother’s arm, and for me, in elementary school at the time, it was the strongest arm I knew (besides my father’s). Relief flooded over me as I realized I was safe; I had received help at just the right moment. Isn’t that how it is with our heavenly Father? We lose our bearings and our footing, feel swept away by the strong current of our emotions, relationships, circumstances, etc., and then all of a sudden, we realize His strong arm is there to help us?
Yesterday we looked at the first of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (120-134).
They are songs that teach us where to turn for peace, help, unity, forgiveness, restoration, strength, blessing, hope, humility, contentment, and a life of prayer and praise. These songs are pictures of our journey to the heavenly city we look toward with hope. More importantly, they anticipate the One who left His home in glory to fulfill His Father’s plan.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Help! (121:1-2). Lifting our eyes in the midst of suffering or sin and shame is very hard to do. Most of the time we want to hide, not only from others, but from the Lord God, and even from ourselves. But this song teaches us a better way. The pilgrim travels onward toward Jerusalem, the city of God that is surrounded by hills, quieting his question (“From where does my help come?”) with the answer he already knows so well. His help is the Creator of those very hills he sees ahead of him on the journey to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the feasts. You know this too, don’t you? You know that your help isn’t found looking down at your toes in shame, or staring at the sheets in the dark as you hide in bed. Your help is found in Christ, the One through whom all things are created (Col. 1:16).
Helper (121:3-8). “But I can’t sleep,” you say. You think the waves too large, the current too strong, but this song reminds us we can sleep because our Keeper doesn’t. And because He doesn’t sleep, He is able to stabilize His saints’ steps, keeping them and protecting them from dangers by day or by night.
It is easy to visualize the weary pilgrim lifting his eyes to the hills surrounding Jerusalem and getting a second wind for the next stretch of the journey. Whether it was the pre-exilic pilgrim making his way to Solomon’s temple or the post-exilic Jew making his way back to the restored temple, both were difficult journeys. This psalm, a fine exposition of the priestly prayer in Numbers 6:24, “The LORD bless you and keep you,” anticipate the One who not only keeps our life but gave up His life to do so. Now that Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand, He has also sent another Helper to us. The Spirit of truth will guide us into truth as we seek to serve our triune God as worshipers, workers and witnesses in this world (John 16:13).
So remember Psalm 121 the next time the wave of suffering, sin, or difficult service threatens to undo you. “He will not let your foot be moved” (v3).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the author of several Bible studies and books, including The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community. She is a wife, mother to four children, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more about Sarah, visit her website: www.sarahivill.com.
STORE UP MORE TREASURES
At some point in our lives, we or someone we know will go through great suffering. I encourage you to go the MARKINC website and listen to the interview "My Son with Down Syndrome & Brain Injury: Parenting Joseph" so that you can store up treasures of encouragement for the next rainy day in your life or someone else's. Here is a summary and teaser of this resource:
For over twenty plus years Sue and her husband have parented three sons, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome and a brain injury. Joseph will never care for himself in any way. He is totally dependent on his parents for his well being. In this conversation, you will hear the story of a mother who is filled with the hope and leans into her Lord for wisdom and strength.
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Contact Sharon with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.